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King sights set on Marathon date for Rainbow Dreamer

Alan King is looking forward to running Rainbow Dreamer in the Betway All-Weather Marathon Championship Final following his victory at Kempton on Saturday.

The eight-year-old made all the running under an astute ride from Hollie Doyle to land the spoils by half a length from Ocean Wind.

It was Rainbow Dreamer’s first win from three starts this winter and sets him up for Lingfield on Good Friday (April 2).

“It was a very good ride from Hollie, so hopefully we’re bang on course for Lingfield now,” the King.

“There is a fast-track qualifier at Chelmsford, but I would imagine we’ll go straight to Lingfield. Easter is pretty earlier this year.”

Messire Des Obeaux is to be aimed at handicap chases in future
Messire Des Obeaux is to be aimed at handicap chases in future (Alab Crowhurst/PA)

King will be looking to running Messire Des Obeaux in handicap chases after the nine-year-old lost his unbeaten record over fences in the Grade One Scilly Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

The Barbury Castle trainer felt Messire Des Obeaux was totally unsuited by the testing conditions but was none the worse for the race.

“He’s absolutely fine. He was perfectly sound this morning. He couldn’t really handle that deep ground, but he’s OK,” he said.

“He’s now had his three runs so he does now qualify for those decent handicap chases, so I will have to have a look through. There maybe a race for him at Newbury in March, but I haven’t got a plan in place yet.”

Messire sights set on Scilly success

Alan King has brought forward Messire Des Obeaux’s Cheltenham Festival a couple of weeks, with the Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase his chief target.

Due to his history of leg trouble, King did not even enter the nine-year-old for next month’s feature meeting and is pinning his hopes on gaining a first Grade One of the season at the Esher venue.

Prior to this term, Messire Des Obeaux had only managed one appearance since April 2017, but he is now unbeaten in two chase starts, impressively winning a Grade Two last time out.

“I don’t think the rain on Thursday night was very welcome. He should handle it though, he has before and I don’t think we’ll be using it as an excuse,” said King.

“We didn’t put him in anything at Cheltenham. I didn’t think it would suit him, so there weren’t many other options and this looked the place to come.

“Obviously this is another big step up in class for him, but his form is pretty solid. The horse who finished third to him at Wincanton (Lieutenant Rocco) bolted up on Thursday.

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“That was a Grade Two, this is now a Grade One, so we’ll just see what happens – I’m very happy with the horse this end anyway.”

Another unbeaten over fences is Dan Skelton’s Shan Blue, who has been very impressive in three outings, including when beating The Big Breakaway in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton last time out.

“I’m really happy with Shan Blue and he has come out of the Kauto Star at Kempton over Christmas really well,” said Skelton.

“We’ve given him a good bit of time until this. I actually think the trip is perfect for him and we know he is effective right-handed, as we saw last time out.

Shan Blue (left) was impressive at Kempton over Christmas
Shan Blue (left) was impressive at Kempton over Christmas (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Sandown should be a fine track for him and he has raced on soft, so I’m not worried about the ground at all. I’m really looking forward to him and I don’t think there are any negatives.”

The Philip Hobbs-trained Sporting John looked very promising in novice hurdles, but he needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at the Cheltenham Festival and a below-par run on his chasing debut.

“At Exeter he jumped extremely well, but he just ran below form. He seems in very good form now and everything seems to have gone well. Hopefully he will put up another good run on Saturday,” said Hobbs.

“We could have looked for a smaller race, but connections have decided this is the way they want to campaign the horse for the moment.

“We will see if he handles the ground at the weekend, but he certainly copes fine with soft ground, so hopefully he can act on this ground.”

Sporting’s John’s owner JP McManus is also represented by Nicky Henderson’s Coral Cup winner Dame De Compagnie.

Hitman chased home Skelton’s Allmankind over two miles last time out and Paul Nicholls is keen to see how he gets on up in trip.

“He worked great on Thursday morning and I’m really looking forward to running him at Sandown,” said Nicholls.

“Physically he’s improved enormously. He’s a proper horse and it’s a proper race.

“I think two and a half miles is well within his capabilities. The ground will be attritional, but remember he’s only ever run in the heavy.”

Messire heading for Scilly Isles – with Cheltenham off agenda

Alan King’s exciting fencing recruit Messire Des Obeaux is on course for the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown early next month.

The Barbury Castle trainer reports the nine-year-old in top order following his impressive triumphs in successive visits to Wincanton this season.

Messire Des Obeaux returned from a 10-month absence to stylishly take out a Class 3 and a Class 1 at the Somerset track, but will not have Cheltenham on his horizon.

King is reluctant to risk aggravating an old injury by running his charge on an undulating terrain.

He said: “Messire is grand and will go for the Scilly Isles (on February 6), which has always been the plan since his last run.

“Touch wood he’s fine, but I won’t even enter him for Cheltenham. I would be concerned he might be vulnerable to a recurrence of his problem running on an undulating course.”

Messire delivers in Dipper heat

Messire Des Obeaux showed his two younger rivals the way home in the Paddy Power Dipper Novices’ Chase at Wincanton.

Winner of the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on New Year’s Eve of 2016, Alan King’s charge went on to be placed at both the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree the following spring, before injury kept him off the track for almost three years.

His return from a 1,034-day hiatus at Huntingdon last February was not devoid of promise, but it nevertheless looked as though his best days may perhaps be behind him.

However, following a heart-warming success on his chasing debut at Wincanton last month, the nine-year-old returned to Somerset for a Grade Two contest saved from the abandoned fixture at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day – and proved up to the task in the hands of Daryl Jacob.

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Settled at the rear of the three-runner field for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey, Messire Des Obeaux could be spotted travelling best rounding the home turn, and it was just a question of what he would find when push came to shove.

In the end he showed he had plenty in the locker, with a flying leap at the final fence sealing a near five-length verdict over Dan Skelton’s 1-2 favourite Protektorat.

Speaking from home, King said: “That definitely brought a smile to my face – I’m delighted.

“He wasn’t going to run in the race if it was run at Cheltenham as that would have been way too soon – he wasn’t even entered for it. The race only came into the equation after it was moved and if he hadn’t run here, he’d probably have gone to Huntingdon for a novice handicap.

“He seems as good as he ever was. I can’t think of bringing one back from that long off the track to win, not at that level anyway.

“He is a good horse and that is the reason we persevered and persuaded the owners to bring him back, as they were going to retire him in France. I begged them to bring him back for another crack. A lot of work has gone in to get him back, from my vets and all the team here.

“It doesn’t always come off, so it’s lovely when it does.”

Daryl Jacob enjoyed a memorable afternoon
Daryl Jacob enjoyed a memorable afternoon (Simon Cooper/PA)

Considering future plans for his charge, the trainer added: “We’ll take it one day at a time. We’ll probably enter him for the Festival, but I am a little bit nervous about taking horses that have had leg problems to Cheltenham, just with the undulations and everything.

“I’m not saying he won’t go there, but I would be slightly worried about it.”

Messire Des Obeaux starred in a remarkable five-timer on the card for Jacob.

The leading rider also struck gold aboard Robert Walford’s Ede’iffs Elton (7-2 favourite), the Paul Nicholls-trained Capeland (6-1), Ben Pauling’s Anightinlambourn (3-1) and Jackson Hill (7-1) from Milton Harris’ yard.